Fairbanks is sometimes called the City of
Lights. And though you'd never confuse it with Paris, the City of
Light, the moniker isn't off-base for this city of about 32,000
planted in the center of the state. Fairbanks takes advantage of
near 24-hour sun during the summer, and it boasts one of the best
places to view the dancing lights of the aurora borealis in the
fall and winter.
You can see a lot
of what Fairbanks has to offer within a day or two, though of
course you can stay longer and use it as a gateway to one of its
neighbors -- what locals call the rest of the 175,000 square miles
that make up Alaska's Interior.
I traveled to
Fairbanks two days after the summer solstice, and even when the sun
sets it never gets dark (getting up at sunrise means arising at 3
a.m.) Here's a sample itinerary of a summer day in
the Chena River. The Riverboat Discovery cruises start
early (folks are advised to turn up a half-hour before the boat
ride begins), but complimentary coffee and doughnuts are served on
the three-and-a-half-hour cruise up the Chena River. Some of the things you'll see: the
confluence of the Chena and Tanana rivers, a fish camp, a
dog-mushing demonstration and the Chena Indian Village, where
guides will take you on a tour and explain native Athabascan
culture. The river tour is reprised at 2 p.m., for visitors who
slept in. For more information, visit www.discoverytradingpost.com or call (907)
Greatland River Tours, offers evening sightseeing and dinner
cruises on the Tanana Chief riverboat. For more information, call
(907) 452-8687 or visit www.greatlandrivertours.com.
Mining. There's gold in them
thar hills! Gold Dredge No. 8 was one of eight giant dredging
machines, and it shook, lumbered and collected gold until 1959.
Today its owned by Holland America Line and put to good use as a
tourist destination. Visitors get to pan for gold at the end of the
This is a good
place to hit at lunch, since some tours include miners stew and
biscuits in the mess hall. For more information, call (907)
457-6058 or visit www.golddredgeno8.com.
The nearby El
Dorado mine also is open to the public, and tours begin at 9:30
a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays. At the El Dorado, visitors ride a
replica train from the Tanana Valley Railroad into a permafrost
tunnel where a guide shows how gold was mined from the walls. Gold
panning also is included, as are cookies and coffee. For more
information call (907) 479-6673 or visit www.eldoradogoldmine.com.
The Trans-Alaska oil pipeline. One of Alaskas landmarks, the pipeline carries oil from
Prudhoe Bay in the Arctic Ocean to Valdez, the northernmost
ice-free port in North America. Since its construction in 1977, the
pipeline has moved more than 15 billion barrels of oil.
In Fairbanks, the
pipeline runs aboveground, and you can walk right up to it -- and
underneath it -- at a viewing area north of the city. Take the
Steese Expressway northbound, and the viewing station will be on
A small exhibit
set up near the pipeline explains how the pipeline works. The
support system allows the pipes to shift in case of an earthquake;
if you walk underneath the pipe, you can see notches made in the
supports that show how far the pipe has moved during recent
Museum of the North. The museum
is finishing a long-term expansion, and the dramatic new wing
designed by architect Joan Sorrano is meant to evoke glaciers, ice
This is a great
place to kick off your visit to Alaska, since you can get an
overview of the state by walking through the Gallery of Alaska. The
gallery highlights natural and cultural differences in Alaska's
geographic regions -- how the Interior, for example, is different
from the Southeast, and how native Yupik traditions differ from
those of the Tlingit. A must-see is Blue Babe, a 36,000-year-old,
mummified steppe bison.
or call (907) 474-7505 for hours, rates and information about new
exhibits. This spring the museum will open The Place Where You Go
to Listen, a sound and light exhibit by John Luther Adams that is
inspired by daylight and darkness, lunar phases, the aurora and
Dinner. Restaurants like Pikes
Landing at Pikes Lodge or the Pump House have al fresco, riverfront
dining, great for those long summer nights (temps in Fairbanks can
climb into the 80s but bring a sweater, just in case). The Pump
House menu runs the gamut from Alaskan salmon, halibut and king
crab to reindeer and wild musk ox. In the nearby town of Fox, the
Turtle Club restaurant is known for its prime rib.
Golf. The sun hasn't yet set,
and for some reason you're feeling as awake as you were at noon.
Might as well go for a round of golf.
This is not
necessarily your stuffy, members-only golfing: In the summer
golfers can reserve midnight tee times. North Star Golf Club says
on its Web site, www.northstargolf.com, that it may be the only golf
course that includes a wildlife checklist on its
On the Fairbanks
Golf and Country Club site, www.fairbanksgolf.com, it says: Cant sleep at
night? Neither can we! Both places offer you 18 holes, club rental
and a cart for around $60. For North Star, call (907) 457-4653. For
Fairbanks Golf and Country Club, call (907) 479-6555.
Rebecca Tobin, managing editor of the print edition of Travel
Weekly, send e-mail to [email protected].